This week we're looking at Square Enix's shift to episodic games, Destiny 2 reports, Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 for backwards compatibility and more!
We're also giving away a copy of Resident Evil Origins Collection to one lucky commenter! Simply leave a comment and join the discussion for a chance to win.
Every week, I collect some of the biggest Xbox news, rumors and talking points into one handy post every weekend. You can also rely on this weekly column to catch up with all the latest game releases.
Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Xbox One News.
The first Call of Duty: Black Ops could hit backwards compatibility very soon
Classic Call of Duty titles are among the highest requested backwards compatible games on the Xbox UserVoice page, and somewhat surprisingly, Activision got on board. We've known for some time that the original Call of Duty Black Ops was on its way to backwards compatibility, but a new report suggests we could be getting it sooner rather than later.
SoloXboxOne revealed that one of Call of Duty Black Ops' map packs – titled Annihilation – has become available in the Spanish Xbox One marketplace. Annihilation wasn't the first DLC available for Black Ops, which probably indicates that other map packs you purchased on your Xbox 360 will become available as well.
Microsoft recently said that they'll begin adding backwards compatible titles as soon as they become available, rather than gathering them up into monthly batches. Video game backlog problems for all!
Stay tuned to Windows Central for the official announcement.
Former project lead praises Gears of War 4's story
Two years ago, Microsoft purchased the Gears of War franchise from Epic Games, locking down the historically Xbox-only franchise for our favorite console. Microsoft repurposed one of their in-house studios to oversee Gears, naming the studio The Coalition after Gears of War lore. Several key Epic Games staff jumped ship, joining Microsoft to work on Gears of War 4, which is gearing up to launch in Q3 2016.
Gears of War's former lead developer, Cliff Bleszinski, recently took to Twitter to praise the new game's story following a phone call with a Coalition team member:
"Just got off the phone with a friend who is doing some writing on the next Gears game. Sounds like we will all be very pleased with it. :)"
"People forget that I'm rooting for @GearsViking and The Coalition to pull this off. :)"
Cliff Bleszinski signed off by saying that he's available to provide creative input for Gears of War 4, should Microsoft pick up the phone. Bleszinski and his new studio Boss Key Productions are currently working on Lawbreakers, an upcoming arena shooter for PC – which could also hit Xbox One down the line.
It sounds as though Gears of War is in good hands given Bleszinski's endorsement. We'll no doubt hear more about what Microsoft are doing to spice up the Gears formula at E3 later this year.
Report states that Destiny 2 has slipped beyond 2016
Kotaku, notorious for high-profile leaks, recently published that the follow-up to Destiny won't launch in 2016 as previously expected.
Reportedly, Destiny's developer had a 10-year plan in place with Activision for the future of the franchise, according to a contract leaked in 2012. The roadmap included a bi-annual launch schedule and between those big retail releases would be hefty expansions, such as The Taken King, which launched last year. This means Destiny 2 was targeting a 2016 launch, but according to Kotaku's sources, these plans have been shelved:
"Just last week higher-ups at Bungie delayed "Destiny 2" out of this September, according to people familiar with goings-on at the studio."
Kotaku's Jason Schreier goes on to state that part of the reason for this delay is that Destiny's strategy keeps changing, emphasizing that some of Destiny's own developers didn't even know that the game had been delayed out of 2016:
"Even within the studio, people may not be aware of every decision that leadership makes; from what I hear, as of yesterday not everyone at Bungie even knew about the Destiny 2 delay."
Game delays are nothing new; we've recently seen ReCore, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and various other big-name titles slip out of their previously announced launch windows. The difference with Destiny pertains to its quasi-MMO status as a permanently-connected game with loot 'em up gameplay and repeatable end-game content. Destiny fans have begun to exhaust what Bungie offered in last year's The Taken King expansion, and there's little information about what the former Halo developer plans to do to gratify Destiny's dedicated fan base. In light of Kotaku's apparent expose – hopefully they'll offer players a bit of information soon.
Report gives reasons for Square Enix's shift to episodic games
In another bout of insider leaks, notable video game commentator Jim Sterling recently gave a report as to why Square Enix's recent and upcoming titles have suffered from strange launch controversies.
Sterling's sources point to a general panic among several high-profile publishers, who felt the winding down of the previous console generation was indicative of a shift towards micro-transaction driven mobile titles and free to play multiplayer games like World of Tanks. Obviously, they were quite wrong, with traditional single-player games like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 shifting ridiculous amounts of units in a relatively short space of time.
As a result of Square Enix's apprehension, games like the upcoming Hitman reboot and Final Fantasy 7 remake had been shifted to an episodic model. Episodic releases ensure that development can be cash flowed more steadily without requiring a larger, riskier upfront investments. It also means that it allows Square Enix to sell games at a higher price than usual, since purchasing every individual "episode" of those games will cost more than buying the season pass.
In effect, Square Enix are passing off some of the risks to consumers, asking them to weigh-up whether to purchase a season pass at a slight discount – risking the possibility of future episodes not being particularly great – or buying piecemeal game chunks for additional cash.
Sterling also reported that Just Cause 3 was intended to be an online-only affair, which is why the game feels a little disjointed and buggy in its current state. Sterling praised JC3's developer Avalanche, who reportedly had to contend with various strategy shifts from Square Enix throughout the game's development. Deus Ex Mankind Divided was apparently impacted by Square Enix's lack of faith in the PS4 and Xbox One as well, which could account for the recent delay.
What Sterling didn't mention was Rise of the Tomb Raider, and it's with a healthy dose of speculation that I believe Square Enix probably eagerly sought a timed exclusivity deal to pass off some of the potential risks of developing another single-player only experience. Without Microsoft's funding, Rise of the Tomb Raider probably would've wound up in the episodic camp as well – Square Enix were publically upset with the previous Tomb Raider's sales.
Thankfully, we now know that despite being exclusive to a single platform, Rise of the Tomb Raider sold over a million copies during the holiday period. It'll likely go on to sell millions more when it hits PC and PS4 throughout 2016 – which should bolster Square Enix's and other publisher's faith in this console generation. The PS4 has been nothing short of a runaway success story, and despite sporting an underdog status, the Xbox One has been vastly outpacing the Xbox 360 sales over the same period.
Or, as Jim Sterling speculates, the episodic FF7 and Hitman could be a resounding financial success, encouraging publishers to launch more games in early access chunks in the future. Sigh.
Be sure to check out Jim Sterling's video here, but beware his occasional naughty language and strange British accent.
If you're comfortable with strange British accents, we also discussed Square Enix's episodic games and the risks of triple-A development in this week's episode of the #OneCast!
Giveaway – Resident Evil Origins Collection
This week, we're giving away a copy of Resident Evil Origins Collection! The collection brings together Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero, re-mastered in HD for Xbox One. Shinji Mikami's Resident Evil pioneered the survival horror genre, giving players limited resources as they navigate haunting labyrinthine environments crammed with puzzles, corporate conspiracies and biological experiments gone horribly wrong. Simply leave a comment and join the discussion for a random chance to win!
The winner was swizzlerz - keep an eye on your inbox over the next week or two! To everyone else, check back next week for another giveaway!
ICYMI - Some of Windows Central's biggest Xbox articles of the week
- Check out this new trailer for The Solus Project, on its way to early access on Xbox One and PC
- Xbox One gets 10 more Xbox 360 backward compatible games, including The Witcher 2 for free [Updated]
- Xbox Elite Controller now works on SteamOS, but just in wired mode
- Halo 5's next free update will add the Halo 2 Battle Rifle, two maps and more
- Brook Super Converters review: Cross-console controller insanity is here
- Prison Architect will bust out on Xbox One and Xbox 360 this spring
- Mortal Kombat XL will bring it all together in one game on March 1 for Xbox One
- Xbox One February 2016 preview build now rolling out
- Introducing #OneCast - an Xbox One, Windows 10 and Microsoft podcast!
- Q&A: Join us for a look at Ashen's dark RPG world, on its way to Xbox One, Steam and Windows 10
New Xbox One game releases for the week ending January 24th, 2016
Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink - Puzzle & Trivia - Artifex Mundi
"Delve into this exciting detective adventure game with a steampunk twist! Strange earthquakes are causing the world's cities to crumble to ruin."
Resident Evil 0 - Horror - Capcom
"Resident Evil 0 reveals the truth behind the Mansion Incident, the catalyst for the entire storyline of the Resident Evil series. This remastered version takes the story and gameplay of the original and adds stunning HD graphics, 5.1 channel surround sound, optional modernised controls and widescreen TV compatibility."
Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space - Action & Adventure - Merge Games Ltd
"Inspired by 60s pulp sci-fi movies, Albedo: Eyes From Outer Space is a first-person adventure game. Working as a night-watchman at a partially abandoned, secret research facility, you are knocked unconscious by a nearby explosion."
Electronic Super Joy - Action & Adventure, Platformer - Michael Todd Games
"Electronic Super Joy is a challenging platformer featuring a pulse pounding soundtrack by EDM superstar, EnV! Run, jump, fly and smash your way through 50+ unique levels, featuring low-gravity, world rotation, giant monsters & swarming missile attacks!"
A Boy and His Blob - Action & Adventure, Platformer - Majesco Entertainment
"A Boy and His Blob makes its triumphant return! As the boy, you feed Blob jelly beans and watch him transform into cool and useful objects to solve puzzles and escape danger."
Gemini: Heroes Reborn - Action & Adventure - Phosphor Games
"Gemini is a first person action-adventure that allows users to enter into the role of Cassandra, age 20. She is a young woman on a journey of discovery in which she will unlock incredible powers - unique in the Heroes Universe - and solve a mystery in her past."
And that's a wrap!
This week I've been playing Resident Evil Zero, reliving a time when the franchise favoured survival horror over sub-par third-person shooting. I've also managed to find myself sucked back into the space sim Elite Dangerous, realising that it's approximately a thousand times more fun when you're playing with friends, rather than solo.
But really, truly, honestly, isn't everything between now and March is a stop-gap for The Division? I'm quite possibly over-hyped for it at this point. Can Ubisoft deliver? Time will tell.
What have you guys been playing this week? Join the discussion in the comments for a chance to win Resident Evil Origins Collection for Xbox One!